Photo: Press (DJ D.DEE)
One of the better things that happened in the past decade was that the worldwide dance music community finally started paying attention to the Canadian scene again. Pacific Rhythm was instrumental in shaping a certain sound with its three Rhythms Of The Pacific compilations, but did far more than that. Along with some other labels like Mood Hut or the now-defunct 1080p, it helped kickstart the careers of producers like Khotin or Sophie Sweetland aka D. Tiffany. The mailorder-turned-label-turned-record store-turned label-only is still going strong and is still a cornerstone in its native Vancouver scene. In his mix for our Groove podcast, co-founder DJ D.DEE provides a taste of what’s to be expected of his label in the coming months.
You originally founded Pacific Rhythm together with Russell Cunningham and Dane Brown in 2013 as an online shop, offering a lot of imported records. Why that specific focus?
Nobody was stocking those records at any of the shops in Vancouver at the time and that was when the newer generation of DJs in Vancouver were really starting to bubble up and a lot of people were buying records and spending an absolute fortune on shipping week after week. We noticed a major gap in the market and started reaching out to distributors in the US and overseas. Since then shops like Beatstreet, Audiopile, and Dandelion have stepped in and all have really amazing new releases coming in week after week. Major S/O’s to all of them for keeping the records flowing. It ain’t easy!
In 2015, you opened your own brick and mortar shop before eventually closing about a year later. Have you ever considered re-opening the store at a different location?
Yes! It’s definitely something I’ve thought about a lot over the years. When we opened up the shop in 2015, I was 25 years old and didn’t know the first thing about owning or operating a business. We kind of just fell ass backwards into a storefront and tried our hardest to make it work. It turns out the margins on new records are incredibly low and in order to keep the lights on you need to sell a lot of them. Who knew?
Apart from running the label, you also keep busy with putting up events in Vancouver, having found a permanent home at the Paradise club. You have previously said that there is a shortage of spaces in which to host events in Vancouver. Has the situation improved since then?
A lot of people tend to try and paint Vancouver as “No Fun City” and like to talk about our lack of venues but truly it’s not that bad and we’ve actually got a very healthy underground scene with loads of events happening every weekend. Things just tend to run in cycles. People who run the spaces age out of the scene, leases run out, rents get raised. It’s the same sort of thing that happens in every major city in the world. As sad as people are to see certain venues disappear another one always seems to pop up in its place sooner or later. I think it’s better to focus on how special it is that amazing underground spaces even exist in the first place. And yes, Paradise is now very much so our home and we’re incredibly happy to have it.
While a lot of your events are club nights, you occasionally also invite artists who are not club acts in the strict sense of the word, like Kedr Livanskiy or even experimental musician Park Jiha. What’s important to you when programming these events?
I think ultimately it’s just about keeping things interesting for yourself and the people around you. Nobody wants to hear the same sounds weekend after weekend and if they do there’s always another party happening somewhere else. There’s so much beautiful music out there and when an opportunity to book someone we admire and want to share with others comes up we always try and take it.
Rhythms of the Pacific Volume 4 comes almost four years after the last instalment of the series. Why did you take a hiatus?
When we started the label the initial plan was to release three Rhythms Of The Pacific compilations and then release EPs from everybody who was featured on the compilations. I guess we were somewhat successful in that and we ended up crossing paths with a lot of other interesting producers along the way. I wanted to do another compilation because I had a lot of really great material sitting around that didn’t quite feel like it had a home. I also just love putting together compilations, they’re a lot of fun.
Wolfey and I share a studio and Chapters is the alias of another person in that same studio – I hope he doesn’t get mad at me for spilling the beans on that one. Their tracks were things I had been playing in my DJ sets for a long time and I was super keen to finally bring them into the physical (and digital) realm. With Active Surplus it was a bit different. I’ve been working on their first EP with them for the last year and “Peppermint” was much newer material I received from them in the summer and played out heavily. Ironically it’s coming out first but I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbled! Be on the lookout for their debut EP early this year, it’s something special.
You already have new releases in the pipeline. What can you tell us about your plans for the future?
When we started the label our focus was hyper-regional but over the years we’ve expanded to releasing music from the rest of Canada and in 2020 we’re going to branch out to the rest of the world. The thought of limiting myself to working with producers from a single country just feels like a strange way to go about things at this point. It’s a global scene and we’re all so connected these days. It feels good to mix it up. Up next we’ve got Active Surplus’ debut EP, an EP from my pal Kennedy in Amsterdam – there’s a track from that in this mix -, a really beautiful single from Jesse Futerman featuring the astonishly talented Beverly Glenn-Copeland, and some really interesting material from Digital Rain System and Corben that will be coming out on tape. We’re also working with my dear friend Tom Noble on his House Of Spirits project and hoping that a handful of those tracks will see the light of day in the coming months. It’s something he’s been working on since I met him and I’m really grateful to be able to help him get the material out into the world. I think people are going to be really blown away by it.
As a DJ, you have played quite a few gigs in the past three years, however mostly stayed in Vancouver. Is there a specific reason for that?
Generally I go to Europe and the UK two or three times a year and have been really grateful to have been invited to play in the US, Colombia, and Mexico more recently. Vancouver is far as hell from just about everything so maybe that has something to do with it? Hah, I don’t know how to answer this really, maybe because people just aren’t booking me that much? I’ve got a quarterly residency at a very special club in NYC called Public Records and will be touring Australia for the first time this March. Catch me there or come to Vancouver!
What was the idea behind your contribution to the Groove podcast?
I recorded the mix in one take at Paradise on a pair of CDJs and a Xone62. It’s a little jaunt through some interesting records that came into my life recently, classics that been in heavy rotation for years, and some unreleased music that’s coming out this year on Pacific Rhythm. I hope you all enjoy it and thanks for listening!
Stream: DJ D.DEE – Groove Podcast 241
01. BOA – BOA (Mosca’s Constricted Version)
02. DJ Python – Tímbrame
03. Your Song Is Good – Re-Search (Force Of Nature Remix)
04. Pender Street Steppers – Our Time
05. Nick The Record, Dan, and The No Commercial Value Band – Noice (Dub Debris)
06. Apiento & Co – ESP (Lexx’ Sunset Ashram Remix)
07. Anderson Chase – Between Us
08. Chapters – Ray Trace*
09. Kennedy – Bona Dea’s Call*
10. Big Zen – 4U
11. Acid Arab – Club DZ (Radio Edit)
12. Ron Trent – Space Riddims
13. Max Ulis – Haze*
14. Junko Yagami – Johannesburg
*Forthcoming on Pacific Rhythm